Writing fiction. It’s like having a world of your own to shape and love.
In the novel I’m writing this month for the NaNoWriMo challenge, it’s the 1930s, the Great Depression has hit, and the tenants of Coleman Court are struggling like everyone else in Santa Cristina, a small, California coastal town.
Jim “JC” Coleman is the protagonist, a no-nonsense yet compassionate man who built his group of homes for the hardworking poor. But it’s the people around him who bring this story to life. Creating characters who are so different from each other on the outside, yet all having similar losses and dreams, has been a real joy for me. Black, white, Chinese, Mexican. This story places Jim as the hub on a wheel, and their lives are really what keep his life in motion.
That becomes even more clear when Jim receives a foreclosure letter from his bank. He will lose his land, and the tenants their homes, if the payment isn’t made soon.
An opportunity comes along for Jim to bid on a job that will bring in enough money to save Coleman Court — one that is impossible for him to complete. He has no skilled workers and no equipment.
But he does have his tenants and their loyalty. And a mountain of faith.
But first, they have to deal with the long-buried fears and weaknesses which are creeping in and around the community. The oppressive clouds of the nation’s economic problems and the rumblings of war in Europe are bringing out the worst in people. Racial rivalries are increasing. Men are abandoning their families. Women are taking desperate measures to feed their children. And Jim is struggling with his own temptations as the role of leader begins to wear him down.
So far the antagonist in the story is the Great Depression, which could be enough. But I’ll most likely add someone who will throw those “plot bricks” at Jim and the others. Right now I’m concentrating on the characters and their background stories.
By the way, Jim has a wonderful wife who keeps things lively as his faithful helper. She’s a musician, dreams of visiting New York, and has a bad habit of skipping housework.
My goal with this novel is to share a world of beauty, indignities, faith, heartache, and triumphs through the families living in this community. I want to show what could be when people choose to look at the heart. Color blind. Heaven on earth.
I was surprised to find myself writing a story with a male protagonist, and I almost changed Jim into a Jane. Then I realized I wasn’t writing the story about a man. I was writing the story about people. But still, it’s a challenge. And who knows? By the end of the month, his wife might be my protagonist. Or maybe I’ll have it viewed through the eyes of one of the older boys, who is getting close to draft age. We shall see.
My little world. I’m loving it.
If you like the Brackman painting above, click here to go to the Smithsonian site which has a slideshow of all the wonderful paintings commissioned in 1934 by the Roosevelt government.